Tips When Wording Your Divorce Agreement (Part 2)

By DadsDivorce.com reader Big D

Over the past few years I have had to go back to my Divorce Settlement Agreement and rely on what was “agreed” to in that document. There are times I am very happy, but there are other times I wanted to yell out loud because I agreed to such horrible wording and details.

In an effort to help my fellow divorced dads out there, I thought I would at least put together some wording phrases that I suggest you consider. You need to think about the future, not today. If the wording sounds corny, silly, or not important at the moment, that might not be the case in two to three years.

Yesterday I wrote about tips on wording parenting time and holiday visitation. Today we’ll discuss wording for picking up and dropping off the kids, education, alimony and child support. Part 3 addressed child care, overnights and remarriage.

Pickup/Dropoff

Without a doubt, make sure you have “curbside pickup” in your document. You don’t want your ex-wife knocking on the door nor do you want the liability of having to walk on your ex-wife’s property. I suggest you have clauses that say “neither party can be on the other property” and “neither party can enter the house of the other party at any time.”

With regard to pickup/dropoff, try to work this around the school schedule. So, “dropoff at school or bus pickup” and “pickup after school or when bus drops them off” works excellent! This is great for school time, but when school is out it can pose issues. I don’t like the 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. pickup. I suggest an end of the day pickup for fathers when they normally get the children after school. I suggest a range from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

 

School/Education

This is a huge issue and one that you need excellent counsel on. You need phrasing that will protect a change of school for your children. Chances are slim you will live in the same school district as your ex-wife. No matter what, make sure that there are phrases that say “change of school of any kind requires joint decision” or “change of school district requires joint decision.” Finally, here is a good one: “Any change to the education of a child requires joint decision.”

 

Spousal Support

Spousal support, sometimes called alimony or maintenance, differs for everyone. However, from my experience, it is all set up in the final documents. Typically the two key points are “how much” and “how long.” So, you might pay X amount of money for two years then Y amount of money for two years after that.

I highly suggest that you have phrasing that states that the spousal support cannot be modified for any reason. This includes winning the lottery, change in job status, change in career, etc. Also make sure that the spousal support language clearly states that the support ends on a certain date without the ability for extension.

However, I do suggest that spousal support should end when the receiver of the payments gets married (even if that is annulled), has a live in boyfriend, or dies.

Finally, the support should have no bearing on the marital status or living arrangements of the one paying the support. Make this very clear and don’t rely on the language of the state guidelines.

 

Child Support

In most states there is an equation to determine the child support that is to be paid. In the state where I live, that includes:

  • Both spouses income
  • Spousal support paid and received
  • Medical insurance paid
  • Child care paid
  • Parenting days

I don’t know too many dads that want to pay no money when they know they have an obligation. However, I don’t know too many dads that are willing to pay more to their ex-wife for child support than the law requires either. With that said, here are some factors that you should consider to make your child support appropriate.

First, make the initial decision as to if each person will be responsible for child care, without it being a child support factor. Careful here. Your ex will come up with ways of making the court think she has child care, when she really does not. I know MANY women who use family members, but don’t pay them one dime. However, they tell the courts they pay $300 to $1,000 a month!

Second, have the child support recalculated every two years. This should be easy, as long as taxes, receipts, etc. are provided. If you work for yourself or your ex does, this can cause some strange results in the taxes reported. Be careful here! I will write a future article on how “Working for Yourself When Divorcing or Being a Divorced Dad.”

Third, make sure that the child support can be “auto recalculated” when there is a job change, position change, company change, etc. that causes a significant change in income. Most states have a standard percentage of change in income that triggers a recalculation.

Finally, when determining the number of parenting days, have some system to determine this. If there is anything but 50/50, it can be very hard to calculate. You need to consider all of the holidays, summer breaks, and any other factors that are written into the document regarding parenting time. If you travel for work and must do “swap time,” this can be a rather large negative and certainly hard to calculate into the final parenting days you have each year.

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